New SunChips Bag: 90% Plant-based, 100% Compostable

Frito Lay Canada (a division of PepsiCo) will roll out the world’s first 100% compostable chip bag in Canadian retail outlets beginning in March.

The new SunChips packaging will be made from more than 90% renewable, plant-based materials, and as a result, the bag will completely break down into compost in a hot, active compost pile in approximately 14 weeks.

“In order to continue to reduce our environmental impact as a company, finding sustainable packaging solutions was a must,” says Marc Guay, President, Frito Lay Canada, in a press release. “We know that environmentally-friendly packaging is a priority for Canadians. Using plant-based renewable materials to make packaging that will interact differently with the environment, represents the next small step in Frito Lay Canada’s environmental sustainability journey.”

The SunChips 100% compostable chip bag will start appearing on shelves in Canada this March in the 225g & 425g size bags. The remaining SunChips packages will transition into the compostable packaging in August 2010.

Here in the U.S., a prototype SunChips bag (made from one-third plant-based materials) is widely available. Frito Lay is planning to launch its new 90% plant-based, 100% compostable bag in the U.S. to coincide with Earth Day 2010.

Bag marketed as “the new sound of green”

The renewable material used to produce the SunChips 100% compostable bag is made from a plant-based material called polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a versatile and compostable polymer made from starch.

After four years of research and testing, Frito-Lay North America’s Research and Development team identified PLA as the key material that meets the company’s performance expectations. PLA ensures the product in the bag maintains the quality and freshness consumers expect, the company says.

The chips will taste the same. However,when handled, the compostable packaging sounds different than traditional bags. That’s because the plant-based materials are not as pliable at room temperature. Frito Lay Canada is cleverly marketing this novel trait as “the new sound of green.” (You can listen to the sound here.)

Certified through the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)

The SunChips’ compostable packaging has been certified through the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), the only internationally recognized labeling program. Therefore,  it presents the opportunity for incorporation into waste management programs destined for composting, provided the local infrastructure is both available and capable of including this packaging material within their system. In the months ahead, SunChips will be working with local composting initiatives to enable the new packaging to be included in green bin programs as much as possible, Frito Lay says.

“Having designed packaging with the environment in mind, SunChips’ certified compostable packaging will help raise awareness of the environmental importance of composting,” said Susan Antler, Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada. “We hope the introduction of initiatives such as the compostable SunChips bag will encourage and make it easier for Canadians to participate in composting such that over time, we will see an increase in the number of Canadian households that compost. This will hopefully also spur the industry to continue to develop and enhance the technology needed to create packaging from renewable resources such that it can be easily incorporated into waste management systems.”

Frito Lay makes it clear on its website that the most effective way for the bag to decompose is in a hot, active composting bin. Of course, under different environmental conditions, the packaging will behave differently. For instance, if left on the ground, the packaging will break down eventually, but not as efficiently as it would in a compost bin.

Here’s a 45 second video from SunChips that depicts the optimal 14-week decomposition process:

Additional green initiatives at Frito Lay Canada

In addition to the SunChips 100% compostable chip bag, Frito Lay Canada has been working to reduce the company’s environmental impact for more than a decade. For example, the company has:

  • Reduced its manufacturing fuel consumption by more than 20% since 1999 per kilogram of snacks produced.
  • Reduced its water consumption by 30% since 1999, saving 5.4 billion liters of water through changes in the manufacturing plants.
  • Diverted more than 92% of manufacturing waste from landfills into re-use streams in 2009.
  • Reused approximately 30 million shipping cartons annually and 200 million since 1999, which is equivalent to more than 300,000 trees saved annually and more than 2 million trees saved since 1999.

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.